Tales of the Apolitical



This article offers a critical analysis of how narratives of a generalised withdrawal from radical politics and activism circulate within contemporary political theory. In so doing, I use the term ‘narrations of apoliticality’ to highlight how such narratives have a fictive and performative dimension: they have, I argue, congealed into a widely held common sense (often buttressed by affects of pessimism, gloom and despair) and become curiously resistant to sustained empirical or theoretical scrutiny. Against this backdrop, the article has four specific aims. First, it maps the general contours of narrations of apoliticality; second, it highlights why narrations of apoliticality are potentially problematic; third – drawing on Lacanian notions of fantasy and Sara Ahmed's account of affect – it explores how the affectivity of such claims renders them sticky and intransigent; and finally, it offers some thoughts on how we might decentre narrations of apoliticality in our analyses of political activism.